AFP chief says Maute Group acknowledged by Islamic State
Gen. Eduardo Año, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), conceded on Friday that the Maute Group that they had been fighting had become part of the Islamic State, also called the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“Ang Presidente na mismo ang nagsabi na ang grupong ito ay ISIS,” Año said in interview with Jessica Soho in her “State of the Nation” program. “So sa amin, yung what’s happening in Marawi kino-consider namin they are acknowledged by ISIS.”
(“The President himself said that this group is part of ISIS. So for us, with what’s happening in Marawi, we consider that they are acknowledged by ISIS.”)
The acknowledgement of the AFP chief was a sudden turnaround of what the military has repeatedly denied in recent years – that an ISIS branch in the Philippines was developing.
The ongoing fighting in Marawi City, which started with a botched raid on the safehouse of Abu Sayyaf top leader Isnilon Hapilon on Tuesday afternoon, prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law on the same day over the whole of Mindanao.
Hapilon is said to be the leader of the ISIS branch in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia.
Año said they were proposing to add the Maute Group on the list of international terrorist organizations.
For now, they can be referred to as the Maute/ISIS Group, he said.
In the past, security officials always denied the looming presence of ISIS in the Philippines, saying that they were only riding to the popularity of the international terrorist group.
Earlier in the day, the AFP said that foreign terrorists were fighting along with the Maute Group in the ongoing gunbattle in Marawi City.
Six of the 31 terrorists killed were reportedly Malaysians, Singaporeans, and Indonesians. /atm
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